By Lukas Eggen Ely Times Staff Writer

The Comins Lake ad hoc committee held an informal gathering Monday evening ahead of its first meeting. The committee is charged with getting together materials for a grant with a $250 million pool to go toward Comins Lake rehabilitation efforts.

There are two rounds of grants, the first round in 2013 and the second round in 2014, with $250 million available in each round. The White Pine County Commission charged the ad hoc committee with preparing the grant application to possibly receive funds to help with Comins Lake.

The committee consists of Dan Papez, Bobby Miller, Bill Miller, Laurie Carson and Ross Sanborn as well as others who will serve in an advisory capacity.

“This is a group of citizens that wants to see Comins Lake come back to what it was world renown for,” White Pine County Commissioner Laurie Carson said.

The deadline for the grant is in mid August, meaning the Committee will be moving quickly to prepare its materials.

“We have to get moving,” County Commissioner Richard Howe said. “You guys are motivated, you’re all go-getters. Each person can detail their experience and put you to work contacting politicians, people you know, gather information that you have from the last time and we can do it to get this grant application in the hands of the right people by August 15.”

There are several issues facing Comins Lake. Those issues range from possibly extending the lake to mercury contamination and the northern pike, which have prevented the growth of the rainbow trout and bass population in the lake. A meeting held earlier this year said that Comins Lake went from attracting a large number of visitors to seeing that number decrease over time as the rainbow trout population decreased because of the introduction of northern pike.

The committee’s first meeting is scheduled for July 19 with plans to meet at least weekly until the grant application’s due date.

“Several different parts have to come together,” Community and Economic Director Jim Garza said. “One, we have mitigation of mercury in the bank of the lake … That issue needs to be addressed. The issue that pike are in the lake and eat the rainbow trout and bass, the removal of the pike to allow those other two species to thrive is an issue. Then there’s the issue of NDOT with US 6/50 over the last 10 to 15 years has had the opportunity of doing some improvements out there to better the access across the roadway and at the same time look at the possibility of construction of a dam with the highway, without the highway, lifting the street up, leaving it alone, there’s several different alternatives.”

Papez said each person’s background knowledge of the issues at Comins Lake should help the committee move quickly going forward. But while the committee must move quickly to prepare its grant application, the project will likely take years to implement and complete.

“It’s my understanding through conversations that I have had this may take three to five years from getting started taking a good look at what needs to be done so far as mitigation so the individuals may change,” Carson said.

As the committee looks to hit the ground running, the committee’s ability to move quickly will be critical to the county’s ability to address the issues facing Comins Lake from becoming a main tourist attraction for White Pine County once again.

“Time is of the essence,” Howe said. “Aug. 15 is coming and we can’t wait, I can’t stress that enough. We’ve got to jump on it and be active and ready to move on everything we can.”

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